By LARRY VAUGHT
For about 10 days, Antoine Poythress spent time gathering information and having discussions about what future opportunities might be there for his son, Kentucky freshman Alex Poythress.
“We were trying to figure out the best decision and wanted to take our time,” said Antoine Poythress. “I was gathering information from various sources and trying to cross reference it. There is not a lot of concrete information out there. It’s not like you are making a decision based on solid information because what you are told could change.”
Alex Poythress was being projected as a first-round NBA draft pick by some, and evaluated as going much lower — if at all — by others. He started 30 games and was Kentucky’s second-leading scorer (11.4 points per game) and rebounder (6.2) last season. The 6-7 forward, who made the Southeastern Conference all-freshman team, often was criticized by Calipari for his lack of focus.
Finally, Alex Poythress decided it was best for him to stay at UK and not put his name into the draft, a decision his father fully supported.
“We kept being told everything was predicated on (pre-draft) workouts or how he would progress if he came back to Kentucky,” Antoine Poythress said. “I tried to gather as much information as I could, but it was a lot for him to absorb. When we discussed going through the process, we decided we had to evaluate everything and then say, ‘Here are the options and what best meets your needs.’ I left the decision with him but I told him he had to be 100 percent sure whatever he decided was what he wanted to do. There would be no looking back in 30 days.”
That’s why when UK announced Monday that freshman Archie Goodwin was entering the draft but both Kyle Wiltjer and Willie Cauley-Stein were staying for another year, there was no mention of Poythress’ future which led to even more fan and media speculation.
“He was just not 100 percent sure and needed to evaluate a few more things then,” Antoine Poythress said. “I wanted him to be 100 percent sure about his decision.”
Poythress’ father gathered the information so his son would not be involved with “external people” and unduly influenced.
“A lot of people have a vested interest in what they say and I did not know how much clean information we would get that was not twisted,” Antoine Poythress said. “I offered my advice and insight to Alex off what I knew, but he knew it was his decision. I told him, ‘You have got to make a decision that will change your life, so I cannot make that decision for you. In the end, you’ve got to make it work. If you go (to the NBA), you’ve got to have great workouts. If you stay (at UK), you have got to work to address the changes in areas they say you are weak in.’ He accepted all that.”
The UK freshman had to rely on his “gut and heart” to make a life-changing choice on his own.
“I love him, root for him but I cannot put the ball in the basket for him or do the work for him,” Poythress’ father said. “He is the one who has to work and perform. That’s why I just tried to give him information to make his decision. The NCAA hamstrings athletes by making them make this decision so quickly. It was gut-wrenching. It’s life-altering and you have little time to decide.”
Antoine Poythress got conflicting information on his son’s draft status. He was told “he is not ready, but he is still very draftable” by one NBA source. Some told him his son was not ready to go into the draft while others said he might go in the 12 to 20 range of the first round.
“He was not going to be top 10 (in the draft), but I kept getting information from enough people that he had this skill level and with improvement could move up to the middle of the draft or even higher,” Antoine Poythress said. “But nothing is concrete. Nothing is set. There is no 100 percent information.
“I do know he has a lot to his game he has not shown yet. He’s capable of much more than he’s shown, a lot more. There is a lot more skill to be tapped into.”
Alex Poythress also wants to return to win a national championship much like Patrick Patterson did four years ago when he came back after a NIT season and UK reached the Elite Eight or Terrence Jones two years ago when UK did win the title.
“From his standpoint, he did not like the way the season ended,” Antoine Poythress said. “He would like to come back and win a national title and thinks they can do that with the players they will have. That definitely did factor into his decision. Losing this year did not set well with him. It’s not a foregone conclusion they will go 40-0 next year and win the national title. They will have seven or eight freshmen and three or four upperclassmen. It’s a matter of how they blend and mix.”
Kentucky never had the right “blend and mix” this season and ended up in the NIT. Antoine Poythress says a few more wins could have changed the perception of his son’s ability and the team’s standing.
“If they win two or three more games, get to the NCAA and win a game or two, the whole perspective of this year is different. It drives me crazy to think how a bounce or two of the ball can impact so much,” Antoine Poythress said. “But that’s the way it went and now Alex is set to come back, work to get better, have a great year and help Kentucky win the national title.”